elcome to the CoDe Magazine Focus issue on Tablet PC and Mobile PC application development. On behalf of the Mobile PC Business Unit at Microsoft (see Figure 1), I’d like to thank Markus and the fine folks at CoDe magazine, our content contributors, and you, the developer, for your continued investment in this platform.
Most of us are in this business for the same reason; we want to do something that will change the lives of others in a positive way. The Tablet PC is poised to make that happen, empowering children, students, parents, field workers, health care providers, field service employees, and many others. No matter who you talk to about Tablet PC, you get the sense that this unique combination of computing mobility with the power of ordinary pen and ink is transforming mainstream computing as we know it.
Although we’re obviously partial to the Tablet PC, I must note that Mobile PC application development is the larger focus of the Mobile PC Business Unit. Mobile PC applications-including those for Tablet PC-evolve as customers seek new ways to access data anywhere and at anytime. Computing is becoming more mobile because customers want more usable and relevant experiences as they use their computers more hours of the day and in more places. Mobile PC applications must evolve even faster than desktop applications, as customers seek new ways to access data and applications anywhere and at any time. It’s interesting to note the trends in computer sales and consumer use of computers. Mobile PC Development considerations are very important, as trends in the industry show the growth rate of notebook computers exceeding that of the desktop. This trend is expected to continue as customers demand anywhere access to their applications and data. Customers use their computers in places and scenarios you may not have thought about yet.
|Figure 1. The TabletPC Team: The team welcomes you to this issue of CoDe Focus magazine.|
There are some key barriers to adoption and usage in these novel settings. Many of the current generation of applications are not mobile-aware: they assume network connectivity, assume A/C power, assume full-sized and landscaped-oriented displays, and are designed for use with keyboard and mouse.
We are determined to bring the platform and components to developers to solve these shortcomings. And we’re devising new solutions each week. We’ve collected all of these into a single location: the Tablet PC and Mobile PC Developer Center. Not only is the Developer Center a central repository for all of the reference and conceptual materials you’d expect in an SDK, but we’ve also collected getting started guides, downloads, technical articles, samples, columns, announcements, case studies, and much more. Think of it as your one-stop shopping experience for Mobile PC development. You can find this information at http://msdn.microsoft.com/mobilepc.
But I digress. This issue of CoDe Magazine is a compilation of articles, samples, and interviews that together lay out the groundwork and the pillars that you should be considering as you work on the applications you bring to market. Read it, enjoy it, and use it.
First, we touch upon a few areas of development and progression of the development platform. Today, we’re writing applications that run on Windows XP?a rock-solid platform?for both Tablet PC and Mobile PC development. We’ll look at tomorrow’s platform and the changes coming in Windows Vista. Starting with the PDC 2005 build, Windows Vista development for Tablet PC and Mobile PC applications is a reality. You can already begin to take advantage of the new platform services and operating system built from the ground up to support the Mobile PC user.
Microsoft has done a great job of making the transition to the Tablet PC seamless, minimizing any barrier to adoption for the end user. With Windows Vista, the investment continues-with new and exciting hardware from the leading OEMs and more advancements to the platform. Now, we need your applications to make this transformation for the end user. To be best-of-breed, your applications must take advantage of the advancements in APIs for mobile use because your customers will be using your applications in mobile scenarios. Optimizing for Mobile PC and Tablet PC opens up new business opportunities for you, and Tablet PC opens up your products to new customers and new scenarios.
But what exactly is a Mobile PC application? Mobile PC applications include any piece of software that a user loads on a Tablet PC, notebook, or laptop. Mobile PC applications aren’t new; they are a part of the continuum of user scenarios. As those scenarios start to include user mobility, applications must be available more of the time. That’s a taxing load for today’s applications that assume the computer is plugged in to a wall outlet, always connected to a wired Internet, always running in landscape mode, and always accessing the data they need to run.
- Network connections come and go and can be lost or diminished at a moment’s notice. Cell phones do it, mobile devices do it, and customers also expect Mobile PCs to jump seamlessly from network to network, making intelligent decisions along the way.
- Power awareness is another consideration of Mobile PC development. Your application must be aware that the system or individual devices can hibernate very quickly when not in use. It is up to your application to save files and other open connections quickly so it can prepare to hibernate and resume without problems.
- Your application needs an architecture that addresses how it gets access to necessary data in both connected and disconnected settings. Consistent broadband connection to a database or file share cannot be guaranteed as users move from a plane, to a subway, between buildings, or even within a coffee shop.
- Mobile PCs have more output considerations than desktops. Tablet PCs can easily swivel from portrait to landscape orientation and your application can respond by adjusting user interfaces to fit. Connecting a Mobile PC to a large screen projector is no longer an oddity but a fact of everyday business for many.
Purely mobile features are more prevalent in Windows Vista, from the Mobility Center to new support for presentation modes, to battery conservation. Windows Vista is truly the Mobile PC application platform.
Windows Vista also introduces a new feature called Windows Sideshow (formerly called Auxiliary display) enabling you to output information to a separate smaller display that can cache information, even when the computer is not active. This enables application access without draining precious battery resources. These displays can be additional small displays on a Mobile PC, displays embedded in keyboards, remote controls, telephones, and more. This is an exciting area for developers; expect to see a lot of innovation. To start thinking out of the box, see http://www.microsoftgadgets.com.
In Windows Vista, Tablet PC and the concept of the Mobile PC shift into the mainstream. Digital Ink becomes more ubiquitous, integrating directly into the presentation subsystem in Windows Presentation Foundation (formerly known as Avalon). Ink Analysis offers new and exciting ways to parse handwriting. There are more APIs for COM developers. Touch screens enter into the Tablet PC realm. Tablet PC Input Panel makes some APIs accessible and integrates new functionality. All Tablet PC platform components support partial trust. Tablet PC technologies deliver native 64-bit platform components. And Tablet PC technologies are omnipresent across all Windows Vista editions.
Tablet PC’s integration into the WinFX? Runtime Components isn’t just about bringing Ink to mainstream applications. Developers specifically engaging Tablet PC users will find a deep synergy between Windows Presentation Foundation and Tablet PC values. The flowed-layout features, for example, make it possible to design a UI that works well in either portrait or landscape orientation (not to mention widescreen notebook form factors), and Windows Presentation Foundation applications’ device-independent coordinate space makes it easier to work with a wide variety of display technologies, accommodating the broad-and growing-spectrum of Tablet PC form factors. The markup language (code-named XAML) opens the door to creative, innovative user interface design, including customization of the look and feel of the entire palette of standard framework controls-and yes, 3D animation.
So, read on and see what we’re bringing to the table, see how it can impact your products and your customers, and see how to build new opportunities for your company. I’ll mention again the Tablet PC and Mobile PC Developer Center at http://msdn.microsoft.com/mobilepc as a continual resource. And finally, software developers and vendors of all sizes can receive information about Tablet PC and Mobile PC advancements directly from Microsoft by registering as a Microsoft Tablet PC Partner. To join, simply go to www.TabletPCPartners.com and complete the registration form.
Thanks, good luck, and remember to think Mobile and think in Ink.